Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview with Author James DeSalvo

Tell us a little about yourself.

Where to start? I’m a high school Special Education teacher who loves writing and acting. I was in a few films (small parts…very small parts) and was one of the few people I knew from my acting days who was never on Law and Order.

When you are writing, where are you, and what do you have with you?

I write everywhere I can. I usually have a cup of coffee with me because that is my one addiction.

At what point did you decide to become a writer? Was there someone or something that specifically inspired you?

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. However, at my age I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I probably started thinking of becoming a professional writer when I was in 7th grade.

Why did you choose to self-publish over going with traditional publishing?

I started with Connie Cobbler. I got tired of waiting for a bite from a big house. My agent was busting his butt, but no one would pick it up. Some were interested, but since I wasn’t a big name they passed. I was thinking of changing my name to Snooki just to get it in the doors.

What are your titles? Write a small blurb about each one.

My first book was Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective. It’s about a popular toy who quits show business after a tragedy befalls her. Think of Strawberry Shortcake by way of Raymond Chandler.
That was followed by Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Tales of Torment for Toddlers. That’s a collection of very short stories and poems that is not meant for toddlers. (If any reader lets their toddlers read it, I’m not responsible!)

My follow up to that was Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Fairytales of Foreboding. That’s a collection of morbid fairytales. That was a bit hard to do since the original fairytales were already gruesome enough. I mean, Hansel and Gretel pushed an old woman in an oven after she threatened them with cannibalism. Silence of the Lambs territory.

The most recent book is Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Hellish Horrors of History. Just more stories from history pushed just a bit more. After all, Mary Todd Lincoln repeatedly tried to contact the dead, so it was only a matter of a few more pages to the truth.

Your Miss Mary Pennynickle stories have a dark but humorous tone. What inspires those particular stories?

Tales of Torment for Toddlers was originally written out of spite. My wife and a friend said over dinner one night that Connie Cobbler was not kid friendly enough and that might be the reason why it wasn’t being picked up. I thought to myself that if they wanted a kid friendly book, I was going to give them one they wouldn’t forget. That’s how The Three Little Bunnies came about. After that, I was on a roll and finished Tales of Torment for Toddlers in about ten days.

Have you based any of your characters on someone you know, or real events in your own life?

I based part of Connie Cobbler on my sister. She had been murdered a few years before I started writing it, but she seemed to be there when I started. Her toughness and street smarts were a big part of Connie’s attitude.

Tell us about some of your future projects?

I’m working on Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Legends of Loathing and a follow up to Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just keep writing. Pick up paper and write whenever a thought strikes you. Keep a pen on you. If a thought hits you when you’re in the bathroom, write it on a sheet of toilet paper. Write anywhere. Write in your brain and transcribe it later.

Also, never let anyone say to you “Do you know what would be a good story for you to write?” Tell them nicely that that would be a good story for THEM to write.  

List 3 of your all time favorite books?

The Shining just scares the hell out of me. The Long Goodbye is one of my favorites. I have to make my third book be everything written by Andrew Vachss. He’s an amazing crime writer and attorney who devotes his time to the cause of abused and exploited children, a cause near and dear to my heart.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?

My cell phone. You can always text yourself ideas as they hit you. It also has my Kindle app on it so I can read anywhere.

I need mints because I’m always worried about fresh breath.

I have to have my wallet and keys.

I also need my pants. Apparently, the neighborhood has a dress code.

Anything else you wish to say, or tell us?

I hope everyone keeps reading. I don’t care what format. Book, e-reader, soup can.

Shameless plug: My Amazon Page with links to my books.

I’m on Smashwords although Connie Cobbler isn’t posted there yet. The premium distribution should put me in most other formats and sites.

Twitter: @jamesdesalvo            

Thanks for the interview and your time.

Goodnight Cleveland!!

Connie Cobbler is a toy who had it all. She was the star of her own television series Connie Cobbler and the Pastry Pals. Her face appeared on t-shirts and she even starred in The Pastry Pals Movie. She was one of the brightest stars of Toy Town. Then tragedy struck. Her friend TIFFANY TART accidentally disappeared into the Custard River while filming an episode of Connie Cobbler and the Pastry Pals. Unable to save her friend and spurred on by grief, Connie Cobbler turned away from show business and became a hard boiled, root beer swigging private detective, dedicating her life to protecting the toys of Toy Town. Connie Cobbler's day begins with a tough case. BRENDA BOMBSHELL, one of the top stars in Toy Town, needs Connie to find her kidnapped dog. When Connie starts working on the case, she soon figures out that not everything adds up. Clues lead her to the missing pooch, but some clues also suggest that Tiffany Tart's disappearance might not have been an accident after all. The closer she comes to the truth, it becomes clear that someone wants her out of the picture. Permanently. Calling upon her best friend ACTION JIM, a former action figure who gave up a life of adventure for love, and the rest of her Pastry Pals, Connie sets out to discover what kind of toy would want her gone and solve the case of what really happened to her friend. 
Miss Mary Pennynickle was a very stern elementary school teacher in the late 19th century into the 20th century. She used many stories to teach her students valuable lessons, such as proper behavior and respect for one's elders. It is not clear as to when she was born. There has been no information on her date of death, either.
It is generally believed that Miss Pennynickle was married and gave birth to three children. However, any evidence of that was burned when her home in New England mysteriously burned to the ground.
Many of her works have recently been discovered in the attic of one of her former residences. They were found in a leatherbound (believed to be leather) book. While it is impossible to print these works due to their delicate physical condition, James DeSalvo has painstakingly transcribed several of her stories here for your enjoyment.
Learn the lessons of Miss Mary Pennynickle and take them to heart. Her students certainly did.
Miss Mary Pennynickle continues the macbre tales she established in Miss Mary Pennynickle's Tales of Torment. In this collection, Miss Mary Pennynickle takes the fairytales we grew up with and twists them to terrify the children in her charge.
From the cannibalistic Hansel and Gretel to the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Miss Mary Pennynickle shows why she was one of the most feared teachers in the history of New England.
Find out why her students were scarred for life (and sometimes death).
Miss Mary Pennynickle's newly discovered diaries have now revealed her demented ways of teaching history to young children. From the landing on Plymouth Rock to the 'assassination' of Abraham Lincoln, Miss Mary Pennynickle imparted her own take on history. As she was wont to say, "Those who don't learn from history are condemned to damnation. Or my basement."


  1. What a great interview! I actually just parted ways with my agent because a year had gone by and nothing. So, now, I promised myself that if by the end of December I don't get another offer of representation I'd go into indie publishing. Thank you so much for the continued inspiration! :-)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kate! :o) You'll have to keep us updated on what happens.